The video reminds me of my own past. As a college student, I made a decision to pursue knowledge for my sake regardless of the consequences. Contrary to drama ridden high school, my college experience was largely anonymous and opening. College was like a huge intellectual sandbox, with a limitless supply of fascinating topics to peruse. It was freedom for me to be there.
University at that time was not like I perceive it to be now. These days, it seems oddly stilted by social justice and corporate influences and I am glad I do not have to deal with that. Back then it still felt like an ivory tower of wizards. It seemed to me that the purpose of university was to research the mysteries of the universe. Brilliance in research was what professors were judged for not their popularity or prowess at teaching. As a result, it might have felt like a callous place to some. It was clearly up to the student take responsibility for their own learning. Knowledge was not given to you. You had to obtain it for yourself.
I loved this. For the first time and possibly the last time in my life my own merit mattered more than position or other's opinions of you. I became the person who sat at the front of the class and asked questions every day without fail. I would engage professors and walk them back to their office in pursuit of my various quests and I was relentless. At first, I was not sure how professors would handle my new found intensity. I thought they might just ridicule me and blow me off.
Instead they were thrilled. Even when I annoyed them they were thrilled. I studied geology with a fellow who was a world expert in vulcanology. He was a truly crappy lecturer. A clear introvert, he he would hang his head and mumble away for the whole hour and a half. Mostly, he drove people crazy. Instead of taking notes, which was impossible because I could not follow him, I ended up writing a list of questions that roughly followed his train of thought. After class, I would present him with my list determined to obtain what he had offered us. In that 20 minutes postlude, that was where my real learning occured.
The first time I did this, he was shocked. He looked up with the wide open eyes of a deer being caught by a predator. I introduced myself and said "Sir, I really want to learn this stuff. Would it be alright with you if I come up after class to ask you specific questions?" He raised his eyebrows incredulously and replied "Umm, ok..." as if he were uncertain that this was not some kind of joke. I proceeded to do so. One on one he was amazing in his depth of understanding and his kindness. I developed a real mentor relationship with this guy, ths odd fellow that the other students thought was terrible.
I kept doing this with other teachers throughout my training, especially with the awkward professors that other people avoided. Clearly the most brilliant of my profs were often the most awkward. These were the people who truly were dedicated to their own quest for understanding. They did not have time to be good at teaching or even socially agile as well. I don't think these people get hired much any more. Too bad.
One fellow, Dr. Ed Bellis from Penn State University, became my advisor and helped me get into grad school. He was a tough military minded grouchy old guy who used to yell at college students to get their feet off of the chairs. Most of my friends thought he was an asshole. I thought he was great. When I failed to get accepted by his alma mater, this rough flat topped grisly who looked and acted like a gunny sargeant actually teared up.
This was a time of major awakening for me. Not only did I doggedly pursue my understanding in school, I also opened myself to trying all sorts of things outside of academics. I am not talking about wanton and stupid activities like over drinking or drugs or partying. I am talking about things that challenged and pushed me to grow. These were the things that made my heart sing. They were touching upon who I wanted to be as a human being.
As Peterson relates in that video, the road to mastery of yourself is an angular path, often overshooting and missing the mark. If you keep at it though, over time, you get closer and closer until one day, maybe right before you die, you look up and you are close enough that you kinda get it. You begin to manifest who you really are.
My martial arts journey began at this time of openness. It was one of those lifechanging pathways outside of academics. In truth, I was pulled to martial arts ever since my dad showed me a bit of "combat judo" that he had learned as an MP in the Navy. In high school, martial arts schools were hard to find and I was too scared to face such a challenge anyway. New schools were popping up around college campuses though and one day I overcame my hesitations and lept into the abyss.
The Fool in the tarot decks is one of the major arcana, an important card. It is perhaps the most powerful of all, symbolizing openness and the 'beginners mind".
From Wikipedia: "The Tarot of Marseilles and related decks similarly depict a bearded person [the fool] wearing what may be a jester's hat; he always carries a bundle of his belongings on a stick (called a bindle) slung over his back. He appears to be getting chased away by an animal, either a dog or a cat. The animal has torn his pants."
I had donned the vestige of the Fool in college. I was the one looking like an idiot, asking all the seemingly dumb questions. As a result of all those dumb questions I excelled. I actually began to understand and I continued to grow. Likewise in the martial arts, I was always the guy who asked the awkward questions. If somethiing did not make sense I would perk up and pursue it with sometimes ridiculous vigor. If the teacher did not appreciate that I would find another way, by practicing with other teachers, by moving around. I also got "chased by dogs and cats" more than once.
As a martial arts teacher, I do not shut down the Noble Fools. The people who take the risk to ask the questions are the often ones who end up following the path to mastery.
This willingness to ask questions is not meant to encourage abrasiveness in students. That is not being the Noble Fool, that is simply being foolish. What I am talking about is the Rage to Know. The Rage to Know is a kind of possession where it is not enough just to follow or emulate. You have to KNOW down in your deepest core. That Rage to Know is the path of the Fool.
The sages say "Even the masters may appear as simpletons"
So to all my fellow Fools out there, ask your questions, dig deep, and make your mistakes.